Fictive story ... In the beginning


Excerpt from letter written by Peter O'Donnell to
one of the list members:

"In 1962, when I first began to create them, it was quite reasonable for 
Modesty to have been a war refugee from somewhere in the Balkans.  
Thirty-plus years on, it doesn't fit.  I can't say that this has worried me,
but about fifteen years ago I thought I would try to work out what origins
I would give Modesty if I had been devising her then, in 1980
instead of 1962.  Obviously this was just for my own
satisfaction, as there's no way her past can be rewritten now, so
this isn't for general publication but if you thought it might
interest your internet friends then you're free to pass it on. 
I'm sending a copy with this letter."

     signed

     Peter O'Donnell




How it could have been...

Written by Peter O'Donnell

A well-to-do Hungarian, with his wife and eight-year-old daughter, fled their country penniless in the mid-seventies to escape arrest for political crimes. In the mountains of Transylvania, trying to reach Turkey by remote ways, the parents were attacked by a pair of mentally deficient peasants who had been banished from their village -- a small, isolated and incestuous community. The peasants claimed that these strangers were vampires, and slaughtered them in horrible fashion. The child escaped, but shock at what she had seen brought total amnesia. She had no memory of her past, her parents, her name -- anything. She was simply a small living organism trying to survive. And survive she did, living on whatever she could find or beg or steal, becoming more adept as the months and years passed, and moving ever south, always keeping clear of towns, running from trouble when she could, fighting like a wild-cat if cornered; her weapon, one she had fashioned herself by binding a long nail with wire to a handle of wood. After four years the child-with-no-name was an experienced survivor. In that time she crossed Turkey and Syria, and spent more than a year with a tribe of nomads, working as a goat-herd. But at twelve, and soon to be regarded as a woman, she knew she would have to wear the Moslem veil, and so she moved on and came at last to a camp for Displaced Persons. It was here that she fell in with a small, gentle old man who had once been a professor in Budapest until, like her parents, he had been forced to flee from political persecution. He called himself Lob, and the child loved him for his gentle- ness. She took to protecting him with snarling ferocity if others tried to rob him of his meagre food ration, and thus a strange friendship was begun. After a while they left the squalor of the camp together. She stole a donkey to carry their few belongings, and in the years that followed they roamed for thousands of miles around the Middle East and along the whole North African coast. By now the child no longer feared towns and cities, where good pickings were to be found, and soon their belongings included books and paper and the tools of education, for Lob knew everything in the world and the child was desperate to learn. It was Lob who with a chuckle gave her the name "Modesty". She chose "Blaise" for herself, after Lob had told her the legend of King Arthur and his magician, Merlin, whose tutor had been called Blaise. Lob spoke five languages, and over the years of their wanderings he taught them all to her, insisting that they spoke a different language each day. Towards the end of this time, perhaps in her sixteenth year, Modesty developed a fierce ambition to make a home for Lob and herself. One day in Marrakesh she decided that Tangier was a place where it was possible to grow rich quickly, and so they set out on the four hundred mile trek. But fifty miles from Tangier, Lob quietly died. She buried him there in the desert, and wept for the first time in her memory. Then she walked on to Tangier alone. Her story from this time on until she wound up The Network, is touched on briefly throughout the novels.